Amal Clooney accuses Turkey of hypocrisy on freedom of speech in Armenian genocide trial

The human rights lawyer, representing Armenia, criticised Turkey’s double standards on freedom of expression.

Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer, has accused Turkey of double standards on freedom of expression for defending a Turkish Leftist who called the Armenian genocide an “international lie,” The Telegraph reports.

The barrister, who is representing Armenia on behalf of Doughty Street Chambers along with Geoffrey Robertson QC, said Turkey’s stance was hypocritical “because of [its] record on freedom of expression”.

Mrs Clooney took on the case against Doğu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party, who was found guilty of racial discrimination in Switzerland in 2007, but had his conviction overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Switzerland has laws against the denial of the genocide as part of its anti-racism laws but the ECHR ruled that Mr Perinçek’s Article 10 right to freedom of speech was violated when Mr Perinçek made his claims.

Three countries ban the denial of freedom of speech including Greece, Slovakia and Switzerland. A French law was overturned on free speech grounds in the country’s constitutional court.

During the ECHR case, the Turkish government also submitted written comments as a third party questioning the veracity of the genocide. Now Armenia is a third-party in the case and is appealing the ECHR decision.

Mrs Clooney told the Strasbourg court’s 17-member Grand Chamber on Wednesday she wanted to correct the record on the Armenian genocide because the previous ruling “cast doubt on the reality of genocide that the Armenian people suffered a century ago”.

“Armenia must have its day in court. The stakes could not be higher for the Armenian people,” she added.

Mr Perinçek had said in 2005 that calling the 1915 massacres and deportations of Armenian a genocide was an “international lie”, but did not dispute that the killings had taken place on a smaller scale.

The ECHR upheld his right to question in a “debate of clear public interest” without ruling on whether massacres were a genocide, a policy of deliberate extermination by Turks, or not in December 2013.

The European judges concluded that there was not a “general consensus” on whether what happened was a genocide.

Four and half minutes into her evidence of the historical record concerning events in 1915, including Ottoman Empire admissions of war crimes, the barrister was asked to conclude by the judges.

“Mrs Clooney may I draw your attention to the fact that the Armenian government has gone over the time allocated, so I ask you to conclude,” said Dean Spielmann, the president of the court.

She insisted that Armenia did not want to limit free speech or historical debate and accused Turkey of having double standards because it’s own poor record on freedom of expression.

“Armenia is not here to argue against freedom of expression anymore than Turkey is here to defend it. This court knows very well how disgraceful Turkey’s record on freedom of expression is. You have found against the Turkish government in 224 separate cases on freedom of expression grounds,”

The Lebanese lawyer made a reference to Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor, who was prosecuted by Turkey for inviting that the 1915 massacres were genocide.

Mr Dink was then assassinated by a Turkish nationalist in 2007 for his views and ethnicity as an Armenian.

“Armenia has every interest in ensuring that its win citizens do not get caught in a net that criminalises speech too broadly. As the family of Hrant Dink know about all too well,” she said.

Asked about the feverish speculation about what she would be wearing, Mrs Clooney laughed and pointed to her barrister’s robes.

“I’m wearing Ede and Ravenscroft,” she told the Telegraph, in a reference to famous English company of legal robe makers and tailors since 1689.

Mr Robertson QC, was surprised at the rows of paparazzi when they arrived in court after she was mobbed in Greece after being involved in the Elgin marbles case.

“It is not about white gloves or yachts. It puts the record straight, she is a human rights lawyer,” he said.

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